two weeks ago, i shared part one of this two part story about traveling through the flavors of the south of france... here is the rest of the story.
saturday morning is the moment for white summer dresses and collecting a brown paper bag of staples: olive oil and garlic and flour and lemon. i shop, i hold, i smell, i choose berries and breads and cheeses and leaves and pots au creme. the city bids us and our olive oil and our berries and our leaves farewell, and we see the sights of the country. c'est un moment de beauté parfaite... in awe of the crumbling châteaux and the reflections of rivers and the geometry of vineyards. the colors and textures are reminiscent of monet's 'coquelicots'; the sights which have surely inspired french impressionism are here before our eyes. it is the moment in the afternoon in which to swing on wooden swings and laugh between grape vines and tour the workings of a winery. we touch the wooden barrels with our fingers, we touch the ripe abundance with our tongues. grapes grown in an intense heat many years ago surprise our palettes with a wine rich in spice. those aged longer delight with a more subtle complexity. we bring a variety of bottles with us to a tiny village of stone homes and church bells and fire flies and wild orchids. far past the vineyards and far past the village is a space of vast emptiness and a small community of neighbours. some teach, some herd sheep, some drink homemade wine. this is our destination. a sweet french man whose face is wrinkled from years in the sun welcomes us to his land. soft brie melts in a dish in the heat of his kitchen; thick dust sparkles in the air. we are offered glasses of vin de pêche, thick and fruity. the sun glistens in the wild wheat while we meet in the shade.
behind the land of farmer is a small house, built by hand out of trees and straw and stone. for today, this is ours. the wide white bed, the stream of sunlight through the windows, the crackle of water on the stove, the dry bar of soap, the thick canvas hammock, the scent of the trees, the miles of tall grasses, the dense nutty cake. all ours for today. we pour a bottle of moelleux from château eugênie. we roast red peppers, we warm bread, we unwrap goat's cheese, we wash spinach, we squeeze lemons, we sprinkle paprika, we slice strawberries, we chill pots au chocolat. i lay a table. a little wooden table, between long grasses, beneath a wild tree. i set a glass jar full of wild flowers, beside two glowing candles, before the singsong of crickets. the air is still, the meal is brought forth, the sunlight fades, the wine sparkles slightly. i stand in the wilderness and observe the serenity and culture before me and know that this is what i will do with my one wild and precious life. this is a moment that sinks into my pores, into my being.
in the morning there are butterflies the colors of rust and alabaster, and a picnic of croissants on a woolen blanket, and a lively french market. stalls of rustic artichokes and fresh lavender and stacks of books. here is a spread of white rolled sacks that hold hundreds of varieties of spices and herbs and tea leaves. we leave with the delights of an olive wood rolling pin and dirty vegetables and waxy baking apples. with each of these, a meal is to be made. surrounded by hands and voices in the quaint kitchen, we dirty our hands with produce and dough. a kitchen in which uneven bookshelves replace the need for cabinets, in which flames replace the convenience of quick cooking methods, in which a hand-turned mill replaces the expectation of modern appliances. thus, this meal tastes of ways of the past, boasts a simple and rustic authenticity. conversation and blessing is shared among generations, late into the hours of the night, lit by the light of the stars. the mother with the beautiful face shares her articulate wisdom gathered over years of bringing forth children and watching life grow. it is candid and unexpected and uninhibited and so very real.
this is where i discovered that i believe in the generosity of life. this life is wild and precious, i am idle and blessed.